Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two Weeks in a Blur

I'm so happy--I did really well in art class today.  He really liked my watercolor.  Our art professor is an incredible artist, of course, but he is also an MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France), which is a huge title and a high honor.  Only the MOFs can wear red white and blue stripes on the collar of their chef jacket--apparently if you don't have your MOF and you wear the stripes, you can be arrested.  Anyway, he is a wonderful teacher and has a beautiful way of looking at life, he's always encouraging us to look at things in different ways.

We are taking art class to be able to prepare sketches for potential clients.  It also helps, I imagine, in presentation and plating of desserts.

My watercolor with Chef's nice comments

We have spent a lot of time working with puff pastry, feuilletage in French.  We made pithivers, chaussons aux pommes, and jalousies a couple weeks ago.
My pithivers, chaussons aux pommes, and jalousies

Close-up of my pithivers

Take-home box!

I really enjoyed working with the puff pastry.  Pithivers is made of puff pastry with almond cream inside, and then intricately carved.  The chaussons aux pommes are puff pastry pouches with apple sauce inside, then carved like little leaves.  Jalousies are puff pastry with almond cream inside carved kind of like Venetian blinds.

A couple weeks ago, I bought a little electric piano.  88 weighted keys and a pedal! AND, the salesman gave me a pair of REALLY nice headphones (50 euros) for free just for "being nice."  I was so happy that day and the walk all the way to the metro, the metro ride, and the walk home with the 15 kilo (~30 lb), 4.5 foot long box didn't even phase me because I was just beaming!  And to top it all off, when I arrived home, the concierge gave me a package that had arrived--it was a care package from my mother!  And it had all sorts of cute things inside.  I have the best Mom ever.  Anyway, I play the piano every day now and it is a vital part of keeping my sanity.

We also made palmiers.  This is puff pastry, the last 2 turns of the pastry, however, are rolled out on granulated sugar instead of flour, and then it's folded like this:

And cut like this:

And it makes this (mine got a little over-cooked because the students in charge of the oven weren't really sure what they were doing yet, oh well, I guess we're all learning):

Chaussons Italiens, palmiers, and
We made praline by hand (it takes a good solid 20-30 minutes of stirring), I think I'm going to end up with massive right-arm muscles.

I am just amazed by how inexpensive really good cheese is here.  I got this entire wheel of camembert for around 2 euros!  And it was DELICIOUS, even if it did make my entire apartment smell like cheese every time I opened my refrigerator.

After we worked so much with the puff pastry, we started working with pâte à choux last week (the kind of dough used to make eclairs, for example).

This dough takes a lot of effort to make and is very unlike other doughs in its production.  It produces a sticky batter that is piped into whatever shape is needed.  The dough then puffs up and is very suitable for filling with creamy deliciousness.  Here is Chef poking holes in his empty eclairs, so that he can fill them with chocolate crème pâtissiere:


Stuffed eclairs:

Then a chocolate fondant is spread over the tops:

The eclairs were SO good, they were my breakfast all week, and my bedtime snack sometimes :)

We have made many things with the pâte à choux, including religieuses, and something called a Paris-Brest.  This is mine, before baking.  It's just choux pastry piped in rounds with almond slices on top:

Then it's baked, cut in half, and crème au beurre pralinée (buttercream flavored with praline) is piped in the inside.  It's pretty tasty.  Oh, and the praline used to flavor the buttercream is the pralines we made by hand the other day, that we ground up into a very fine paste using a machine called robot coupe.

We made mille feuille for the school's restaurant last week.  These are three of them.  Mille feuille consists of a thin layer of puff pastry, some sort of filling (for example, one of ours used pastry cream flavored with anise liqueur, then a solid layer of raspberries, then another layer of puff pastry, another layer of anise cream and raspberries, then one more layer of puff pastry.  Mille feuille literally means "thousand layer." The one with the orange slices on top has dark chocolate and cointreau cream--mmmmm!  And the one in the front with the powdered sugar is the traditional way of making it, with rum-flavored pastry cream:

So I really love my new little studio-apartment.  The small size of it is actually growing on me.  What do I need a ton of space for?  I don't.  It is just right, I think Goldylocks would approve.  Here's the view from my kitchen

My couch/bed--the poppies make me really happy!

  View from balcony:

I'm so happy because this week we are working on cakes!  Lots of layering and frostings--and it's the first time we haven't had anything to take home for several days in a row, because we do a little work on each cake every day.  He told us yesterday that we have made enough cake to feed ~480 people in just 5 hours!  But I'm really anxious to finish at least one of them so I can take it home!

This week has been really nice, I got to meet Marcie and Woody's daughter Jennifer, her husband, and their friends who are all here visiting Paris from Kansas City.  It has been so amazing to meet so much of my family that I haven't really known before.  And they kept recounting various scandalous stories of my grandpa, which I love to hear about.  Jennifer is really great though, she has a lovely perspective on life, speaks her mind, and carries herself in a very pleasant manner.  I hope to see more of them while they're in town.  But I've been so unhappy that I haven't had any desserts to bring them this week--it's very unusual.

We switched partners today in class, and since there are only 9 students in our class, Annegret has been working with Chef up until now, but now Chef and I are partners.  It's a really great opportunity because it's learning from a different perspective.  I'm very happy about the change.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jessica,
    these photos and descriptions are so good. I LOVE that you all have art classes to help with your work. That seems so sensible and shows regard for the arts.

    yea for the new keyboard too.